Following a highly successful 2013 where Ratcliffe took the Avon Tyres British GT4 Championship title with Rick Parfitt Jnr, a natural progression would have seen the talented Welshman build on his recent success on track and look for a GT3 race drive.
However, having witnessed similarly experienced rivals struggle to convert GT4 pace into front-running GT3 performances, the 20-year-old has opted for a slimmed down race calendar in the Triple Eight BMW Z4 GT3; the priority of the role being for Ratcliffe to work on developing the skillset necessary to forge a career as a top GT driver.
“I want to be the whole package,” explains Ratcliffe, who last week scooped the prestigious BRDC Rising Star award. “I’ve got pace, I’ve shown that, but I need to develop on and off the track; my fitness, my media skills, as well as getting the pace necessary to feature at the front of a GT3 grid. This year I wouldn’t be able to go into GT3 with a realistic chance of taking the title. I’m not a Richard Westbrook or Nick Tandy, and I want to be there with them. I want to be noticed for the right reasons, not fighting for tenth place week in, week out.”
With the Triple Eight team’s vast engineering experience including BTCC, World Sports Cars and Formula 1, plus the support of regular racers Joe Osborne and Luke Hines too, Ratcliffe found the decision easy to make.
“Of course I want to be on track racing, and I will be making some race appearances in the Z4 GT3 before the end of the year. I want to become settled in GT3 and open opportunities for the following year. It’s a building block so I’m more attractive to manufacturers for their factory squads. The BMW, along with the Aston and Porsche was the most competitive package last season, so to try to develop yourself in a front-running car gives me a real buzz; it’s one less thing to worry about and is a real motivator for me in my testing programme.”
The proposition for the intensive testing schedule was developed by Triple Eight Team Principal, Ian Harrison, and fulfils a desire by Triple Eight Director, Lee Mowle, to generate an academy of talent for the team.
“Ryan is a great young talent, but for him to jump into GT3 this year wouldn’t help him grow or make financial sense,” said Harrison. “There are plenty of people who would take his money and give him a race seat in GT3, but they wouldn’t nurture his talent and educate him on what it takes to be a top professional driver; that’s what we will be doing over the next twelve months. The effects of an expedited progression can’t be counted just in terms of money, it’s a huge psychological risk and can ruin a driver’s career for good.”
Ratcliffe, who briefly tested the Triple Eight BMW Z4 GT3 last year, concludes: “I had offers for race drives this year, but right now I’m with a top team that really believes in me, and that’s hugely important. I want to avoid the limelight for a few months and come back and shock people. “
The schedule proposed for Ratcliffe will see the former SaxMax and Ginetta competitor undertake two races in the BMW Z4 GT3, along with a number of test dates too.
Triple Eight Race Engineering is seeking further drivers who are looking to develop away from the limelight of a competitive race meeting for similar academy roles in 2014, and interested parties should contact Ian Harrison on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Source. Triple Eight Race Engineering